Ann Rutherford

Dancing Co-Ed (1939)

Dancing Co-Ed 1939Freddie and Toddie Tobin are one of the most popular dancing duos working and are about to start making a new movie together, but when news breaks that Toddie is pregnant, they need to find someone to take her place in their new film. The studio moguls decide that instead of getting another big-name star to take Toddie’s place, they should cast an unknown and hold a nationwide contest for college students to find her replacement. But to make sure they’re choosing someone who is up to the demands of working with a dancer like Freddie, they choose a real dancer named Patty Marlow (Lana Turner) and enroll her in college so she can “win” the contest.

Patty isn’t too happy about the prospect of going back to school and since she isn’t all that educated to begin with, the studio’s press agent gets his secretary Eve (Ann Rutherford) to take her entrance exams for her and pays for her to go back to school, too. While at school, she ends up falling in love with Pug Braddock (Richard Carlson), who works for the school paper. Much to her surprise, she also starts to really like journalism, too. Pug is skeptical about this big nationwide contest and wants to do an expose about it. Patty tries to continue with the contest, while trying to convince Pug she’s on the level at the same time. Of course, it isn’t long before he finds out the truth, but everything works out in the end.

Some movies don’t aspire to be anything more than lighthearted fun and that’s exactly what Dancing Co-Ed does. Fluffy, formulaic, nonsense plot? Absolutely! But is it fun to watch? Oh, yeah! I’ve spent all day not feeling very well and this was exactly the sort of movie I needed to lift my spirits a little bit. Not only does it have a very young Lana Turner, still pretty early in her career at this point and very beautiful and charming, it has a really great supporting cast with people like Ann Rutherford, Roscoe Karns, and Monty Woolley, who plays one of Patty’s professors. It’s simply a really cute movie. Nothing Earth shattering, but sometimes you just need something fun and cute and Dancing Co-Ed fits the bill perfectly. I loved it.

What’s on TCM: July 2012

Happy July, everyone!  Hard to believe that it’s already almost time for Summer Under the Stars, but TCM has lots of fun stuff going on in July to keep us busy until then.  Leslie Howard is the Star of the Month and his movies will be on every Tuesday night this month.  Every Monday in July will be dedicated to showing 24 hours of adventure movies.  Spike Lee is this month’s guest programmer and has chosen some excellent movies for the night of July 5th.  There are a lot of good things to mention, so let’s get to it:

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Dramatic School (1938)

By day, Louise Mauban (Luise Rainer) is a regular, albeit promising, dramatic school student.  But by night, she’s always out on the town living the high life with her boyfriend Marquis Andre D’Abbencourt (Alan Marshal).  Well, not really.  That’s just what she tells all her classmates.  The reality is that she works the night shift in a factory to support herself and she doesn’t want to tell her classmates the real reason why she can’t go out with them at night.  She concocts this story one day after Andre visits the factory she works at with his actress girlfriend so she can study the workers for a role she’s playing.  Some of her classmates believe her stories, but others are more skeptical.

No one is more skeptical than Nana (Paulette Goddard), and one night her suspicions are confirmed when she and her boyfriend run into Andre during one of their nights out.  When Nana mentions Louise to Andre, he’s never heard of her.  Nana is awfully catty, so she decides to throw a swanky party and invite both Andre and Louise so that when they meet in front of all their classmates, Louise will be humiliated when he doesn’t know her.  On the night of the party, Andre and Louise both do show up, but Andre has been tipped off about Nana’s plan and doesn’t have the heart to play into it.  He walks in and pretends like he and Louise know each other well, much to Louise’s astonishment.  But then Andre begins to actually fall in love with Louise and he starts showing her the life she’d only known in her mind.  He buys her beautiful clothes, takes her out on the town, and sets her up in a nice new apartment.

But the good times can’t last forever.  One day at school, Louise faces the wrath of her teacher Madame Charlot (Gale Sondergaard).  Madame Charlot was already hurting from being told she’s too old to play Joan in a production of Joan of Arc.  So when Louise gets under her skin, she takes it out on her by promising to have her expelled.  But rather than get upset, Louise thanks Madame Charlot because the suffering will help her become a better actress.  But Louise’s day takes another turn for the worse when she comes home to a letter from Andre breaking things off.  She lets all of her classmates have things Andre has given her and gives Nana the break-up letter because she thinks it will make her happy.  Instead, Nana and Louise end up becoming friends after that.  Louise boldly goes to school the next day and instead of being yelled at by Madame Charlot, she finds out that Madame Charlot has recommended her for the part of Joan in Joan of Arc.  Of course, Louise gets the part, becomes an overnight sensation, and Andre is left kicking himself for having left her.

I liked Dramatic School.  The story itself might not be particularly remarkable, but the cast made it work.  I loved Luise Rainer, Paulette Goddard made a great catty classmate, and Gale Sondergaard was an excellent choice for the aging actress/teacher.  And it was fun to see people like Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, and Virginia Grey pop up in the supporting cast.  It’s an enjoyable little movie and with a runtime of only 80 minutes, I’d say it’s worth checking out the next time it’s on TCM.